Sea Is Calm Tonight, The, for SATB and Piano

The Sea Is Calm Tonight sets the first stanza of Mathew Arnold’s classic work Dover Beach (1867). There is a sad and haunting nature to the text and I attempt to reflect that sentiment in the setting of this famous poem.  I take advantage of the inherent structure of the poem to define structure in the music.  Thus, the line “Come to the window, sweet is the night air!” becomes a section unto itself through imitative and developmental repetition.  The line is the only one with an exclamation point and is in stark contrast to the overall melancholy mood of the stanza.  The music is therefore much more exuberant and emphatic.   Another line that is used for expansion is “Begin, and cease, and then again begin,” where repetition and imitation are used to paint an image of very soft waves all down the beach gently breaking in various stages, disturbing the pebbles in a very subdued manner.  Tritone relationships play an important role in both melodic movement and structural formulation.  Harmonic progression is strongly implied, although traditional tonal progression models are avoided.  The result is the seamless move from the beginning Bb area to the tritone-related E area at the end of the work.  The piano part is integral to the work with melodic themes and countermelodies.  In general, the music features a harmonic language that avoids triadic implications in favor of a variative quintel language.

Difficulty: medium/difficult

Duration: ca 6'30"

Sea Is Calm Tonight, The, for SATB and Piano
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  • Item #: CSM57020
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